It's common knowledge that brushing your teeth, as well as flossing, twice a day is the ideal way to prevent tooth decay.
What you may not know is that dental hygiene services include more intensive teeth cleanings, oral screenings for conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis, and a raft of preventative dental hygiene services.
The Rundown on Dental Hygiene Services
The beauty of going to the dentist for hygiene hygiene services is that you can get screened for common dental problems while receiving various therapies to keep those problems at bay.
- Gum Therapy
For instance, gum therapy (a.k.a., root planing or scaling) might be called for if the beginnings of gingivitis are present in your gums.
The American Dental Association (ADA) considers gum therapy the gold standard for treating gum issues since it gets to the root of the problem (literally) - gum therapy entails a dentist scrubbing between your teeth and gums in order to remove harmful plaque and damaging bacteria.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a serious condition since it undermines the health of patients' teeth while simultaneously causing patients' gums to ache and swell. Caused by an infection in the tissue enveloping and supporting a patient's teeth, harmful plaque builds up and eventually causes the gums to swell and readily bleed.
The good news is that, if caught early enough and treated with gum therapy during a dental hygiene session, you can prevent gum disease from gaining a foothold. Of course, dental hygienists will also recommended daily brushing and flossing as the go-to defense against gingivitis.
- Fluoride Therapy
Dentists often take an all-hands-on-deck mentality to preventing dental caries and rampant tooth decay, especially in older populations.
One of the ways in which dentists use every tool at their disposal to prevent tooth decay is by calling in the help of a mineral known as fluoride. Within the context of hygiene services, fluoride is one of those substances (along with phosphate) that can be deposited to your teeth's outer enamel layer in order to forestall dental caries and prevent eventual tooth loss.
Fluoride therapy involves topically applying measured amounts of fluoride to a patient's teeth in the form of a varnish or gel. A varnish, for instance, could be painted on your teeth during a dental hygiene session and offer you protection against the acid that corrodes your teeth's enamel.
Since too much sugar or high acidity levels can wear away at patient's enamel and exacerbate tooth decay, fluoride therapy works to combat and reverse the vicious cycle of tooth decay by fortifying your frontline enamel defenses.
- Dental Radiographs
Dental radiographs (a.k.a., dental x-rays) veritably created a renaissance within the field of dentistry. For the first time, dental radiographs lent dentists a bird's-eye-view into the patient's teeth, soft tissue and underlying bones.
This kind of information was absolutely critical, and remains critical, for uncovering current dental problems as well as preventing future dental issues in patients' mouths and supporting jaw structure.
Whether you're a patient who's had her cavities spotted before they got out of hand or a patient who's had his radiograph studied for bone loss, dental radiographs have lent a helping hand. Dental radiographs allow dentists to determine, for instance, if there's enough bone on an older patient's lower arch to warrant implant-supported dentures.
Radiographs also can spot temperomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders early and determine if your bite is in the proper position or not. In short, dental radiographs are invaluable for ensuring that teeth are developing properly in younger patients and that teeth are free from decay in older patients.
- Comprehensive Oral Screening
During a dental hygiene session you will also get a screening for cavities, gum disease and oral cancer. These screenings are anything but a formality since gum disease, at least in the early stages, can be painless and oral cancer is more easily combated when targeted early.
Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, shows itself in the form of cancerous red and white plaques in the mouth. Although this type of cancer doesn't get the kind of press as other types, it's no less dangerous. The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that there will be over 100 new cases of oral cancer spotted in the U.S. on any given day.
Some of the risk factors that increase your chances of developing oral cancer - tobacco use - are also risk factors for cavities and gum disease. Your dental hygienist will go over these risk factors in addition to develope a cavity risk assessment plan or, should you develop a cavity, cavity management protocol.
With all of these benefits in mind, do you think you'd benefit from a dental hygiene session?